Smithsonian Perspectives

It's our 150th anniversary, and we plan to celebrate all year long — by bringing the Smithsonian home to you

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On New Year's Day 1996, the Smithsonian will officially launch its 150th-anniversary celebration in a special way. Hundreds of millions of television spectators of the 1996 Tournament of Roses parade will see the Smithsonian's unprecedented participation in this highly popular event. Our entry will highlight the most ambitious of all our anniversary activities, the centerpiece of our national outreach efforts: a traveling exhibition entitled "America's Smithsonian."

As I previewed for you in an earlier Perspectives, the national tour of this exhibition will open in Los Angeles on February 9. It will ultimately reach more than ten million people as it moves around the country over a two-year period. The 100,000-square-foot show will be booked into convention centers and will feature more than 300 treasures and national icons, most of which have never been away from their Smithsonian homes: First Ladies' gowns, Tecumseh's tomahawk, Arthur Ashe's tennis racquet, Auguste Rodin's Walking Man, the Apollo 14 command module, and hundreds more.


To finance this traveling exhibition — and to enable us to take it to the people of our country without admission fees — as well as to fund a yearlong program of promotion and information on the CBS television network, we have launched a "Corporate Partner Program." Our collaboration with CBS will result in "Smithsonian Minutes," which will be aired throughout the year, each featuring a little-known fact about the Institution and its collections. In addition, CBS will produce a one-hour special in January and a live broadcast of our 150th-birthday party from the Mall on August 10. The full cooperation of the corporate world in our 150th celebration will help us to reach our goal of national outreach and involvement.


Traveling in tandem with the exhibition will be an especially interesting program — "Voices of Discovery" — organized by the Smithsonian Associates. Through the "Voices" program, ten distinguished scholars will each spend five days in settings ranging from formal university- and museum-based lecture halls to television talk shows, elementary schools and civic-group meetings. These scholars will represent our effort to share the human and intellectual resources of the Institution concurrently with the physical resources to be featured in the traveling exhibition.


Several major new exhibitions will be held in 1996. For example, the National Portrait Gallery will open "1846" in April and "Red, Hot and Blue" in October. At the National Air and Space Museum, "How Things Fly" and "Cosmic Voyage" will attract millions of visitors. And the fully renovated Janet Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals will reopen in the National Museum of Natural History in December.


Smithsonian magazine will publish a special 150th-anniversary issue in May, and Smithsonian Books and Alfred A. Knopf have jointly published James Conaway's colorful history, The Smithsonian: 150 Years of Adventure, Discovery, and Wonder. An anniversary bell, the gift of the A. T. Cross Company (also founded in 1846), will be on public view in the Smithsonian Castle beginning in January. Cast at the Whitechapel Foundry in London, it will be hoisted into the Castle tower and will ring out for the first time on August 10.

About I. Michael Heyman
I. Michael Heyman

I. Michael Heyman served as the secretary of the Smithonian Institution from 1994 to 1999.

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